Receiving nuisance telephone calls? Don't know what to do? Feeling victimised? What's the law? Here is what you can do to pin down the pest…
Malicious communication is a form of harassment, whether it involves the telephone, post, fax or text messaging.
Here we concentrate on the most common form of harassment - telephone calls. This includes both landline and mobiles. We want you to feel safe and secure in your own home. Abusive, annoying, harassing, obscene or threatening telephone calls are an invasion of your privacy.
Malicious calls may be made by a small group of people who think it is funny or smart to make such obscene calls, or by callers who intend to upset you for revenge, anger or humour.
All telephone companies have different procedures for handling malicious calls.
Please contact your telephone service provider who will be happy to advise you on the appropriate actions to take and also advise you on your personal safety and security.
You can help yourself by using some simple techniques and installing some electronic equipment.
The following equipment can be used to identify the origins of calls.
Call Tracing is normally initiated when other options, such as a change of number, are either inappropriate or have failed to help. Your telephone company may initiate a trace if they feel it is warranted, or they may reccommend you contact the police, who can authorise the trace.
Caller Display is part of a new network service, which is dependent on Calling Line Identity (CLI) technology. This service allows customers to see the number of the person calling them before they answer the phone.
Telephone service providers have other new facilities to put a stop to unwanted calls. Speak to their customer services for further details.
Call Return is a free service. By dialing a simple code - 1471 - receivers can access an automatic announcement giving the last calling number, whether the call has been answered or not.
Malicious callers think they can escape detection by using the 141 number withhold facility. BT will continue to trace such callers at the request of the police through the national network of the Malicious Calls Bureau, and offenders still face the prospect of prosecution.
Likewise, callers to the 999 service also have their numbers displayed to emergency operators whether or not they have used the 141 facility. Therefore the emergency services are also able to crack down on prank calls.
Following a successful investigation, the police may forward the case to the Crown Prosecution Service for possible court action.
Please contact your telephone service provider in the first instance, who will be able to advise you on the procedure most appropriate to your individual circumstances.
It is an offence to send an indecent, offensive or threatening letter or other form of electronic communication to another person.
A person who makes indecent, offensive or threatening calls to another via the telephone system network is guilty of an offence.
The conviction penalty varies from imprisonment to a maximum fine of up to £5,000.
In some cases (e.g. where the malicious calls form one element of a wider charge such as breach of an injunction, where there have been threats to kill etc) the defendant could be held in contempt of court or charged with grievous bodily harm or actual bodily harm under the Offences Against the Person Act.
Other legislation that you need to be aware of is the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, which is aimed at protecting people from harassment and similar conduct.
If you are a victim of malicious calls or would like to request further information on personal safety and security relating to malicious calls you can contact:
For mobile phone operators, please contact your customer services